This is the story of The Appel Shop. To read about our family, click my profile (Tyler Appel).
The Appel Shop was born from a hobby that was started on a whim. We needed a couple tables and I had some free time (free time? Remember that?) and didn’t want to pay full price for them. It just so happened that, at the same time, a carpenter I’d never met decided to move to Costa Rica and sell all of his stuff on Craigslist before he left. I answered the ad and came home with the “porch woodworker starter pack” and got to work on the tiny porch of our 4th-floor apartment. It’s funny to look back at that and how such a seemingly inconsequential decision to call that Craigslist-posting Costa Rica-bound carpenter was one of the biggest pivot points in my life.
So I built some things on my porch. I posted them on Facebook. People liked those things and expressed interest in getting their own things. I discovered I had a knack for building things, but I began to take notice of the online presence of other woodworkers and discovered that there are actually quite a few people, all over the place, that have a knack for building things. I’m not original in that respect. That’s also when I started to realize that almost everyone was building the same things, or things that looked similar to each other. So from there a little seed of a desire was born within me to be original. To come up with my own designs. So I started pushing on that door a little. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I had a “real” job. Woodworking was just for fun, when I had time, though I was getting better and better at it. Pretty soon though, the “real” job came to an end. My wife and I had both started as houseparents and then took over as program directors for a safe house program for underage girls rescued from sex trafficking. It was an experience we’re so glad we had (and we’re actually still on the board of directors for that nonprofit), but we had a baby and it became clear to us that the hours we were doing and the amount that we were on call wasn’t conducive for how we were desiring to raise our daughter (we now have 4 daughters). So we quit. Without a plan, but confident in our decision. That was early 2014.
As I threw resumes around, I decided to forgo getting a temporary non-career job (pizza delivery has traditionally been my go-to) and instead try to sell some of my woodworking creations, while I waited for the career job to happen. Little did I know, by deciding to try to sell some of my designs, I had just started a business and a career. From that point on, once I made it known that I was “open for business,” so to speak, people haven’t stopped asking me to build them things. The interest has never waned, it has only increased. That’s why I say “my customers forced me into this career,” because I didn’t even realize this was something I wanted to do or COULD do, but the sales just didn’t stop. This is a really cool way to start a business, but the downside to it is that I didn’t know I was starting a business when it started, so no business plan or structures were in place, which made for a messy few years of being constantly behind and overwhelmed.
Joining Etsy is when things really started going nuts. What I loved about Etsy was that I could sell MY designs and only my designs. With local sales, it’s so often building exactly what the customer wants, which is great and I’ve done that for years and have no issue with it, but often it’s something they found online and is exactly what so many other woodworkers are building. With Etsy, I could post and sell my own designs, but I actually didn’t really know if my designs would sell. I definitely felt that I had an eye for design, but did others feel the same way? I didn’t know what would happen. But it definitely DID happen and continues to happen. People really like my desks and tables. I sold 101 desks/tables last month (July 2019). 101! That’s 3.25 a day. That’s crazy. I’ve sold 3,636 items on Etsy as of 8/6/2019…with close to 2,000 of those being desks/tables and the remainder being smaller items like cookbook stands and wall hooks. Those numbers boggle my mind. I started by renting out a small workspace in my father-in-law’s countertop shop, but outgrew that within a year, so I moved into a 450 SF garage and outgrew that within a year, so I moved into a 1,000 SF shop and outgrew that, and now I’m outgrowing my 1,800 SF shop I’ve been in for 14 months or so. I now have three employees as well. It’s been a wild ride. The past few months, starting in March, sales have gone crazy again and are more than double any previous year. It’s exciting, but intense and hard to handle and I’m now having to slow my sales down a bit in order to figure it all out. But I’m excited for where this is going and what’s to come.
I’m very thankful for it all. I’m also very tired. But mostly thankful.